Brandcenter Icon Brandcenter

Friday Forum

Image of Debbie Vandeven and Jon Cook
Friday, March 31
11 a.m. - 12:30 a.m.

VCU Commons Theater
907 Floyd Avenue

Debbi Vandeven

Chief creative officer/VML

John Cook

Global CEO /VML

Topic: Somewhere Over the Rainbow: How Knowledge, Heart and Courage Can Take You There

Global CEO Jon Cook and Global CCO Debbi Vandeven have traveled down the yellow brick road together for almost 20 years. In that time, they’ve seen VML evolve from leading digital agency to global contemporary marketing creative powerhouse — listed as an Ad Age Top 10 A-List Agency for two years running and among the most awarded agencies at Cannes last year. Founded in Kansas City in 1992, VML now has 28 offices across six continents and more than 2,500 VMLers around the globe. Find out what it took to get to this enviable position in the industry, the various lessons learned along the way and how those same lessons can take you far.


Debbi Vandeven is the global chief creative officer at VML, a leading global agency named to the 2016 and 2017 Ad Age Agency A-List. She was recently honored as a part of the Adweek Creative 100, and Business Insider included her on its list of the 30 Most Creative People in Advertising for 2016. Since joining VML in 2000, Debbi has fostered a collaborative creative environment that delivers innovative solutions to clients around the world, including Colgate-Palmolive, Dell, Electrolux/Frigidaire, Ford, Gatorade, Kellogg, MasterCard, New Balance, PepsiCo, QuikTrip, Sprint and Wendy’s. Debbi has served on international award show juries, including ANDY Awards, Art Directors Club, Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, CLIO Awards (2016 digital jury chair), IAB MIXX Awards, Loeries, New York Festivals and One Show Interactive. VML’s creative teams have earned recognition from top international shows, including 11 Lions and 25 shortlist recognitions across 12 categories at this year’s Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, as well as ANDY Awards, Art Directors Club, CLIO Awards, Effie Awards, Facebook Awards, London International Awards, New York Festivals, One Show, Spikes Asia, Tomorrow Awards and Webby Awards.

A driving force at VML for 20 years, Jon has served as global CEO since 2011. During his tenure at VML, the agency has grown from 30 employees in Kansas City, Missouri, to more than 2,500 on six continents. He embodies the agency’s primary objective — to be the leading strategic partner for the world’s most forward-thinking brands.

Jon helped guide VML to Advertising Age’s 2016 A-List honors, which recognizes the industry’s top 10 agencies. VML serves some of the world’s most recognized and respected brands, including Bridgestone, ColgatePalmolive, Ford, Kellogg, PepsiCo, Wendy’s and many more.

Jon was recognized as the Advertising Professional of the Year by the American Advertising Federation and serves on the national advisory board of the National World War I Museum at Liberty Memorial in Kansas City, Missouri.


Jon is a proud graduate of the University of Missouri with a Bachelor of Science in journalism.

Brandcenter Forum presentation